Today at Microsoft Ignite 2018, the company is announcing a new Azure service called “Windows Virtual Desktop,” which will utilize multi-user Windows 10. With this, Microsoft is finally entering the DaaS space—with full desktops, not just apps or infrastructure—in a big way, and answering some of the questions we’ve been asking all summer.
Just a quick note on the timing of the news: Microsoft pre-briefed the media ahead of Ignite, as is typical with many tech announcements. There are still a lot of details to be filled in, but more information will be coming out in Microsoft blog posts and Ignite sessions later today and this week. I wanted to get the preliminary information out right when the embargo lifted at 9am Eastern—just keep in mind that more will be coming soon.
Anyway, here’s what we know about Microsoft's new offering from the pre-briefing materials:
- It’s called Windows Virtual Desktop.
- It’s delivered on Azure (so they’re pitching all the usual benefits of speed, scale, security, and compliance).
- It’s the “only cloud-based service that delivers a multi-user Windows 10 experience.”
- It can be used for Office 365 Pro Plus.
- It includes free Windows 7 Extended Security Updates. (How Windows 7 fits in isn’t clear yet.) (Update: They'll offer virtualized Windows 7, too.)
- They’re aiming for a preview by the end of the year.
It’s a cliché, but let me be the first to say that this validates DaaS offerings by other vendors, and that Microsoft is following its typical playbook. The DaaS space is starting to get hot, but you know that if Microsoft does this right, then this offering will be very competitive and have tons of customers, with corresponding market effects on the competition.
I know, this analysis could be applied to about 1,000 other product categories that Microsoft has entered, so it doesn’t sound very original, but this is the case, and dozens of other blogs and news sites are going to be saying the same thing.
So what is interesting?
If Windows Virtual Desktop is offered in conjunction with the recently announced Microsoft Managed Desktop, it could be positioned as a way to keep desktops locked down (possibly in S mode), while running Win32 apps in the cloud.
The free Windows 7 Extended Security Update aspect is interesting, too. The extended lifecycle was just announced a few weeks ago, but I wonder what’s going on here—is the idea to sell a virtual desktop as a bridge to Windows 10? (Update: They'll offer virtualized Windows 7 desktops, too.)
We have plenty of additional questions—how much will Windows Virtual Desktop cost, will there be other use cases for Windows 10 multi-user, what’s going to happen to RDSH in Windows Server, and so on—but as I mentioned, we’ll learn a lot more later today and this week.
Update, 9:30 Eastern time
Microsoft's blog post is up, so here's what else we're learning:
- Partners involved include: Citrix, CloudJumper, FSLogix, Lakeside Software, Liquidware, People Tech Group, and ThinPrint.
- Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers will be able to sell it.
- Citrix will "deeply integrate and build upon" Windows Virtual Desktop.
- Windows 10 Enterprise and Education customers will be able to use it for free, and just have to pay for the associated compute and storage in their Azure instances.
- It will be able to deliver full desktops or just apps.